The connection between Christianity and global-warming deniers

[NOTE: I originally sent this to Jim as an email, because I felt like it needed an outlet but, since I blog for business reasons, couldn’t really give it a home on my blogs. I was interested to see what How good is that? readers would have to say on the subject.

Jim, however, invited me to just post it as a guest blog. So that’s what I’ve done, with some minimal editing.

I’m looking forward to comments!]

Someone I met online – mostly because I couldn’t stop myself from commenting on dumb things he said, like “Religion is good because it’s the reason I don’t cheat on my wife with the cute 18-year-old I saw on the street today…” (I find these kinds of pro-religion arguments really, really distasteful) posted a link today.

Basically this is an article which supposedly analyzes a NASA study which supposedly proves that global warming is NOT caused by man, and is in fact a natural phenomenon.

He was really excited about this (he posted with a comment like “Finally, some reason! This proves that global warming doesn’t exist!”).
But then I noticed:

– Everyone who commented positively on his post (on Facebook) is a Christian

– Everyone who was like “Are you kidding? This study is a joke”(on Facebook) is an atheist

– There was a huge debate within the comments of the article itself which was actually much more informative than the article (I recommend reading the comments)

– The debate in the comments following the article sounded REMARKABLY like debates between atheists and Christians! The same “I read a study that proves…” and “So-and-so was totally discredited…” and ultimately the global warming deniers sound JUST LIKE Christians (“Oh, you liberals are always believing in science, when we all know that science is usually wrong…”)

So I have come to the conclusion that there is a direct correlation between Christianity and global warming denial – and I wonder why that is.

The problem is that I don’t know enough about global warming – and the nuances of who’s making money off of it and who’s not (the guy on Facebook asserted that Al Gore is just a big con artist because he’s making all kinds of money off emission taxes and whatnot, for example) – or the science behind it to discuss it intelligently. Intuitively, global warming makes sense to me, and the reading I have done (mostly about animal or reptile populations being affected) seem to make a compelling case, but having worked in marketing for 15+ years I’m more aware than most people that you can spin ‘data’ any bloody way you want.

So I asked the guy for some links to articles about it.  He, of course, sent me links to (a) Christian, US media and (b) blogs by Christian Americans.

I said they were too biased; I’d like a link to a non-US publication with at least some pretense to objectivity, such as The Economist. He came back with a big rant about how The Economist was “totally biased”; I sighed, said I’d only suggested it (and that I’m perfectly well aware that all media is biased, consciously or sub-consciously, but mainstream publications such as The Economist at least try to hold themselves to a higher journalistic standard than Bob the Blogger) and repeated my comment that I’d be happy with any link to any mainstream publication from any country, so long as it was non-American and not just some random blog.

You can guess the outcome:  No links to any articles.  Because no one outside the Bible Belt is asserting that Al Gore is a crook who’s lying about global warming in order to line his own pockets

FOLLOW-UP: After I wrote this little email rant, I went back to Facebook and pointed out to my correspondent that, ultimately, he seemed to be trying to make a ‘rational’ case for something that in fact was a ‘belief’.

Surprisingly, he admitted it was true: that based on the information he’d assimilated, it was his ‘opinion’ that global warming wasn’t real.

Interestingly, this puts us RIGHT BACK to where we were in my comment about ‘faith’: Why do some people go out of their way to have ‘faith’ in ideas when EVERY BIT OF EVIDENCE is pointing in the other direction?

I’ve since given this a lot of thought, and I still don’t have a good answer for why Christian Republicans tend to be the ones denying global warming (they call it AGW – Anti-Global-Warming).  Is it that Christian Republicans tend to be the ones who own all the oil (all the anti-evolution nutjobs on Twitter seem to be from Texas)?  Is it that Christians – the ones who believe the Bible is literal truth – think that the entire globe, like animals, is here to be exploited as much as possible, since ‘God gave us dominion’ over it all?   Is it that they want an excuse to hate Democrats, and Al Gore gives them a convenient excuse?  Or is it simply that Christians have gotten in the habit of decrying all ‘science’ that ‘liberals’ seem to believe in, and this is just a knee-jerk reaction?

I don’t know.  Maybe you do.

17 comments on “The connection between Christianity and global-warming deniers

  1. Hardly surprising. In his mind, he probably believes that god created the world. Therefore, how can mere humans have such a catastrophic effect on “His” great creation? If we could ruin “His” planet then that makes “Him” fallible. Plus, many will think that god is going to bail them out or at least provide a rope ladder to heaven when the shit hits the fan (as it will when oil peaks). There is of course, as you point out, the “science knows shit” card that they like wafting around while simultaneous shouting that “you scientist think you know everything”.

    And certainly, there is a link to the weatlhy republican whites with shares in the major oil corps. Pretty much a given what their favourite bed time book would be. Not saying they belive a single word of it but they can use it to enable their prejudice and greed like so many before them have done.

  2. It’s simple, ain’t it? It’s the exact same mindset, the lack of the courage required to face the things you really don’t want to face.

    Religion is believing that which you want to be true over that which appears to be true. (If there’s a god, your existence is no longer limited – you get to live in heaven forever, yay!)

    Denying global warming is believing that which you want to be true over that which appears to be true. (If climate change isn’t real, you don’t have to give up all those things you like, such as cars, planes, 90% of the energy your house consumes, etc.)

    If the facts get in the way of either pursuit, never lose faith – just shut your eyes and keep talking, throw out every logical fallacy you can muster and when you’re called on those, ignore that and throw out some more. Just keep going, those facts aren’t true if you don’t listen! Lalalalala, can’t hear you!

    Just my $0.02 – open to alteration, of course :)

  3. Okay, you asked the guy for links, here’s one:

    http://www.petitionproject.org/

    Global warming caused by man – when presented as fact or consensus – is one of the most successful marketing campaigns in recent memory, so I find quite odd that with your background you failed to recognise that! There is by no means consensus in the scientific community. I find it a little frivolous that this real issue (i.e massive fraud to increase tax revenues and other political purposes) is linked in your article to just another manifestation of ‘religion Vs atheism.’ Religion Vs atheism is a pointless debate, as I found out myself in this blog quite recently. This however is a real issue.

    Glad to see new posts on here :-)

  4. Okay, I went and looked at the link – though I keep asking for non-American links and no one seems to have any (this looks to be a petition by AMERICAN scientists – and while the fact that 9000+ PhDs signed this petition, it still doesn’t adequately explain to me exactly why global warming is “one of the most successful marketing campaigns in recent memory.”

    I have acknowledged that I’m not a scientist; I’ve acknowledged that my opinion is based on my own interpretation of the information I’ve assimilated, scattered and non-comprehensive though it may be.

    HOWEVER, your comment about “religion vs atheism is a pointless debate…” leads me to inquire: Are you in fact an atheist who disagrees with global warming? Because I don’t think the link is frivolous at all – in fact, the more I see comments on the subject, the more I think there’s a real and causative connection.

  5. So you admit to having basically zero scientific knowledge or technical understanding of the actual issue, yet you are ready to make broad statements like people ‘denying’ global warming have “faith’ in ideas when EVERY BIT OF EVIDENCE is pointing in the other direction”???

    Included in that link is a rather lengthy review in which the argument against global warming as caused by man is layed out in detailed, layman’s terms. Since you ‘looked at the link’ and then responded within 10 minutes I take it you are either an extremely fast reader, or you missed that part. In case of the latter go here http://www.petitionproject.org/gw_article/Review_Article_HTML.php

    Of course I could be wrong and perhaps you are simply willing to make these kind of arguments based purely on a superficial ‘scattered and non-comprehensive’ understanding of the subject. The point being, you attack those with opposing viewpoints to yourself as being merely deists extending their blind faith to a scientific realm, when in reality you admit to little actual knowledge yourself. A tenuous situation!

    Perhaps rather than attacking them out of hand (with such a contrived strawman as ‘well they’re only religious nuts anyway’ or something similar) to let yourself prematurely off the hook, you should attempt to understand their point of view. This isn’t creationism we are talking about, religion is irrelevant to the science behind this issue.

    As for the ‘marketing campaign’ stuff. You only have to look at the full page spreads taken out in various publications, the Al Gore documentary selling the idea and so on. Jim actually looked on this blog at the Ida ‘Missing Link’ nonsense a little while back, well the ‘fact’ of global warming has been promoted in a similar manner-albeit on a much grander scale-and with similar motivations as that was.

    Finally, and I actually kind of resent having to defend my position on this issue with something so pointless to it, NO I am NOT a religious person, I actually find every religion I have studied in any kind of detail to be pretty stupid and nonsensical. I am not one of Jim’s ‘willful non-thinkers!’

    later

  6. Okay, well I’m quite pleased because the posting of my original, um, question (okay, possibly rant) has led me to some interesting information.

    Michael, I thank you for your link to the TimesOnline, which was a little easier for me to digest than the article at Petition Project (though I did in fact read it, but you know us marketing types – there’s a reason Douglas Adams lumped us in with phone sanitizers and hairdressers, because apparently we aren’t all that bright).

    However, you seem to be getting kind of angry about the whole thing, and I don’t think I’ve been angry or even intractable. In fact, I’m quite prepared to accept that we don’t know everything about climate change – I think humans in general have difficulty thinking on the super-long time-frames that increasingly seem to be involved here.

    As for the marketing campaign stuff and the duplicity of Al Gore and his ilk: isn’t it possible that these people are just as passionate about their take on the science behind this stuff as you are about yours?

    The other thing which I think may be confusing the issue – at least I’ve realized it has for me – is that while I haven’t (until recently, anyway) read a whole lot about the stats behind climate change, I HAVE read a fair amount about the consequences on biological populations (frogs, polar bears, bees, etc.) and there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that there are some not-so-great things happening there. Perhaps it’s true that these populations are being affected by climate change on a scale outside of human intervention; perhaps they’re being affected by human intervention in terms of localized environment rather than climate change. However, the effects seem quite real, dramatic, and negative.

  7. Sarah, I am not angry in the slightest,and I apologise unreservedly if I gave you that impression! I do disagree with your article somewhat, for the reasons I have already stated. Humans do have trouble thinking in long time frames, which is one of the reasons they measure and record things to help form their opinions.

    Sure, Al Gore et al could be passionate idealists, although given the rather obvious deceptions and inaccuracies in ‘An Inconvient Truth’ I doubt it. Much more compelling is the fact that Gore has significant financial ties to the movement which stand to make him billions if it becomes a success.

    http://newsbusters.org/node/11149

    As for the ‘consequences on biological populations’ perhaps there are effects on animals driven by climate change, but accounts of such are usually anecdotal. You are most likely confusing ‘global warming’ with the corporate-industrial and agricultural pollution and contamination of the environment. Pollution of the environment is a very real, and most definitely man-made problem, which you are right, is causing catastrophic effects on the planets ecosystems and animal/plant life.

  8. oh my god i think i’m going to have to quit my job.

    Because otherwise I’m never going to have time for this. (climate change research)

    Read the Newsbusters article; good, but then the rabid hating on ‘liberals’ in the comments sent me right back to my first assumption (even if I am beginning to think that the situation is far more nuanced than I thought).

    What I find kind of hilarious is that the pro-global warming and the anti-global warming people say the exact same things about each other: “See? This is another example of how [liberals/conservatives] are total idiots and obsessed with self-deception! Being a [Democrat/Republican] requires a lot of willful stupidity given all the evidence!”

    (Seriously – check out the comments on the Newsbusters article, then compare them with the early ones here. They’re the same – but with different subjects.)

    I also checked out ClimateAudit.org, though I got lost in a discussion of old computer programming. (Though there was some interesting stuff about how the poor location of temperature-measurement devices had made a HUGE difference to the primary data.) But one of commenters on that site seems to run http://www.climatedata.info which I suspect has some good stuff.

    (sigh)

    So now I guess I need to go run some simulations and examine some code and participate in a conference or two. I’ll get back to you in, like, 18 months.

  9. It’s June in Chicago and the weather has barely broken past 72. Usually its 80 by June and all the locals plan their excursions based upon where they can find Air Conditioning. I feel like I’m experiencing Spring… in the middle of June. Its bizarrely cooler than usual!

    Global warming?

    Human beings are natural meaning makers, so we tend to look for little facts and apply them to our end argument. I’m all for keeping down pollution, promoting new technology that provides better forms of energy (away from fossil fuels), but NOT at the cost of mass hysteria and government mandates.

    Sarah, its an interesting metaphor to compare the non-critical-thinking of religion and the non-critical-thinking of global warming afficianados. Another one might be to compare the way religion and global warming have been successfully advertised… to the point that everyone walks around going, “It may be true, it may not be true, I just don’t know, but just in case… I’m going to do x,y,z because if it IS true, at least I’m not going to end up with the bad consequence of going to hell/destroying the planet.”

    It’s all quite gloom and doom, isn’t it?

  10. skeptic magazine vol 14 no 1 http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/archives/vol14n01.html had global warming as it’s cover story but it may not help, it had both pro and con articles. the con article pretty much criticized global warming because we can’t measure that accurately.

    i, like you, have not devoted much energy to the global warming issue, haven’t even seen al gore’s movie, but i have noticed that every agw i know personally is also an christian conservative. 1 good friend sends me links on lots of issues all the time and like you, i ask for non-p.o.v. mainstream articles and rarely get them.

    michael and kaybee both act like the global warming issue is obvious if only we’d open our eyes, which seems a little arrogant for my taste. it is their posts here that sound like marketing.

  11. Heads up! I’ve had some interest in taking part in the podcast, but I always welcome as many views as possible. Just a reminder for those subscribed to this thread to send your Skype username to thatjim@gmail.com if you want to take part.

    What I’ll then be doing is opening a Google Calendar which everyone who has mailed me with an interest in taking part will be added to, so everyone can put a pin the map and say what time and date they’ll be free to talk with me via Skype. Don’t worry your mail address won’t be revealed to anyone else who shows an interest, just the date and time you say you can make it to talk.

    Then, once we have enough people who can make it at the same time, we’ll get together and just chat. The resulting conversation will be edited as little as possible (literally just to remove unwanted “testing 1, 2, 3, can everyone hear me?” technical set-up) and then put out as a podcast on the howgoodisthat.wordpress.com blog and also mirrored on unenslaved.com

    Thanks to everyone who has shown an interest so far! Jim.

  12. “michael and kaybee both act like the global warming issue is obvious if only we’d open our eyes, which seems a little arrogant for my taste. it is their posts here that sound like marketing.”

    It may seem that way, but as you have already admitted to having not really bothered looking at the issue, it is actually you who is a little arrogant to make such assumptions on something you know practically nothing about. As for the marketing comment, that probably sounded clever in your head, but actually it comes across as pretty dumb, as Kaybee and I have not spent millions and millions of pounds in advertising and lobbying politicians to try and convince you of our case. We just made a couple of comments in this thread. If you want to debate facts then that’s fine, but no ad hominem attacks please that just wont do.

  13. “Human beings are natural meaning makers, so we tend to look for little facts and apply them to our end argument.”

    It’s interesting that you talk about the weather in Chicago in relation to global warming, then mention the “little facts” thing. You’re applying those same local facts and applying them to a global phenomenon.

  14. I am convinced that those that those who discount scientific evidence against their previous opinion will reject it as “marketing”, regardless of its veracity. I know that there are many important scientific issues that have less complete agreement that we treat as fact for action (such as in the practice of medicine). There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the notion of Climate Change related to human activities. I’m dumbstruck that any thinking human being could think that spewing refuse into the environment indefinitely could have no effect.

    As those scientists that are actively involved in climate change study have indicated, the changes will not be sudden or uniform. As Thatoneguy said, the “warming” refers to a global average.

    Since the original article was about linking faith to this issue, it is relevant to realize that this issue is not only scientific, but ethical. For Christians, the issue is one of stewardship. We are charged with the safe-keeping of Earth. It is a sacred trust that does not specify that one should do it only if convenient or inexpensive. “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

    If anyone is interested, here’s a link to an interview with Sir John Houghton, FRS CBE. He is a scientist who was co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) scientific group (Nobel Prize). http://www.pbs.org/moyers/faithandreason/portraits_houghton.html

  15. Its a good question and I don’t see any good answer to it. One would think that the people who are convinced that Jesus is returning any day now would be MORE rather than less inclined to accept that we’re damaging the planet—as evidence of the damaging impact of our sinful nature and of the need for a savior to set the world right.

    But, no, for some reason conservative christians consistently reject the idea of human caused global warming.

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